Places to Go and Things to Do

Exploring and Living in Cuba

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Dancing is an integral part of Cuban culture as was discussed in the section on Cuba’s people. Many dance forms have originated in Cuba and every celebration includes some form of dance. The Tearto Mella, Teatro Nacional, and Teatro Amadeo Roldán all feature concerts and dance programs at different times of the year. The National Ballet of Cuba is considered one of the finest in the world and performs occasionally at Havana’s Gran Teatro. The National Folklore Group also performs there.

There are also modern dance companies like Danza Contemporánea de Cuba, Cuba's first and now most-successful independent company. Government-supported, the company features not only superb dancers but also new productions staged by choreographers from throughout the world. Tickets are dirtcheap but nevertheless out of the reach of the average Cuban.

Each November there is an International Ballet Festival held in Havana.

Music is a way of life in Cuba wherever you are in the country. Cuba is the cradle of tropical music. In Cuba you don't have to go far to hear live music. Musicians play every type of music all over the country, from clubs to concerts and even on street corners—music pervades the air.

Music is the most salient feature of Cuba's culture. Cuban music is a mixture of African percussion and Spanish guitar. Dancing is an important part of Cuban music. So, if you love to dance and enjoy Latin music, Cuba is the perfect place for you to live.

 Salsa is the best-known and most popular type of Cuban music. Mambo and cha-cha-cha are older forms of Cuban music that have become popular throughout the world. No discussion of Cuban music would be complete without mentioning the most famous song to come out of Cuba—Guantanamera. Many international singers have popularized this song.

Son is the local equivalent of country music. Celia Cruz, Xavier Cugart, Gloria Estefan, Pérez Prado and Desi Arnaz are just a few of the excellent singers and musicians Cuba has produced over the years.

 There are dozens of clubs which feature dancers and musicians playing salsa and congo rhythms. Cabarets are found at the Capri Hotel in Vedado, in the Hotel Havana Libre and the Caberet Parisien at the Hotel Nacional in Vedado.

 There are discos at hotels and dance halls where you can dance the night away if you so desire. Discoteca Habana Club (Hotel Comdoro), Habana Café (Hotel Meliá Cohiba), the Ache at Cuba's new Hotel Meliá Cohiba, Casa de la Música and the Palacio de Salsa are the "in" places to dance and are also fun. Arcos de Cristal next to the Tropicana is another good bet. You can also dance at Club Turquino at the Havana Libre Hotel; the Discoteca del Hotel Copacabana in the Miramar district; Discoteca Habana Club in the Hotel Comodore in Miramar; El Elegante Bar at the hotel Rivera in Vedado; La Tasca Española at the Marina Hemingway; Piano Bar Neptuno at the Hotel Neptuno in Miramar; and Skiper video-bar at the Hotel Capri in Vedado district

 You can hear Latin music performed at Café Turqino in the Havana Libre Hotel, and Hotel Riviera.

Jazz has become very popular. Cuba has produced a string of fine international jazz musicians. They are admired all over the world for their virtuosity and creativity. Sadly, most of Cuba's better jazz musicians have left the country. Good can be heard at Cuba's superb jazz and blues clubs like. Jazz enthusiasts can hear live jazz at the Jazz Café in Vedado (see below).

The Havana International Jazz Festival (Cuba Jazz Festival held in February) was born in 1978 when Bobby Carcasses, and other well known Cuban Jazz musicians, presented the first Jazz concert at the Casa de la Cultura de Plaza in downtown Havana.

 Before the Cuban Revolution, Havana was the Las Vegas of the Caribbean because of its great entertainment, nightclubs and musical reviews—some shows still exist. The most famous nightclub act is still found at the world famous Tropicana Night Club Tel: 207-0110  Performances are held in the open air. Over 200 performers participate in the shows and the reviews and costumes rival Las Vegas and the atmosphere is unsurpassed. The Cabaret Nacional at the National Hotel's rendition of the larger, even more elaborate showgirl spectacular than at the Tropicana. All big hotels have their own cabarets and nightclubs.

 Most hotels and restaurants offer a variety of exotic beverages. The Turquino Bar at the Hotel Havana Libre has panoramic views of the city. The Bodeguita del Medio and the Floridita were two favorite watering holes of Hemingway. La Taberna del Galeon on the Plaza de Armas is a good tourist bar. Along the scenic Malecón you can drink at the 1830 Bar or a couple of smaller establishments.

 Carnival in Cuba is an old tradition dating back several hundred years. This usually takes place after the sugar harvest or zafra. The best carnivals take place in Cuba’s two main cities of Havana and Santiago de Cuba. Havana's carnival is held in mid-February and lasts an entire week. The whole Malecón area fills up with Cubans and foreigners.  Comparsas— a type of street dancing or performance from a neighborhood—are part of carnival and can be seen at different times and locations during the year.


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Official Guide to Cuban Spanish

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